To get a better sense of what to expect out of the buzzy class of receiver prospects about to descend on the NFL, let's take a look at some pro comparisons for my top-five ranked pass catchers.
First, though, let's take a quick look at the traits that are important for predicting receiver play:
2) Quickness and ability to separate.
3) Strength. (This is important when it comes to fighting off press coverage.)
4) Hand-size and strength. (Hands measuring under 9 inches are cause for concern, as players with hands under that threshold are more likely to fumble the ball.)
5) Body control.
Now, without further ado, the pro-prospect comparisons:
Pro comparison: Antonio Brown (84.1 catches per year, 1,126.3 receiving yards per year, 13.4 yards per catch, 7.5 receiving touchdowns per year, 2010-19).
Jeudy didn't play much in his first year at receiver-rich Alabama, and his overall numbers would have been better if he hadn't also been splitting targets with players like Calvin Ridley and Henry Ruggs, but he still produced, pulling down 145 catches for 2,478 yards (17.1 yards per catch) and 24 touchdowns over the past two seasons. His combination of excellent quickness, speed and strength is hard to come by in a receiver. I like his run-after-the-catch ability -- and the fact that he played against Michigan in the Citrus Bowl even though he was on the brink of leaving for the NFL, racking up 204 receiving yards and a touchdown on six catches. Brown's career hit a significant rough patch in 2019, but from 2011 to '18, no one in the league produced more receiving yards (11,040) or receiving touchdowns (74) than Brown did with the Steelers. Brown is shorter than Jeudy, but Jeudy most reminds me of Brown.
Pro comparison: Dez Bryant (66.4 catches per year, 932.4 receiving yards per year, 14.0 yards per catch, 9.1 receiving touchdowns per year, 2010-17).
Lamb was a beast with the ball in his hands, collecting 376 yards after contact (third-most in FBS) and 683 yards after the catch and forcing 26 missed tackles (second-most among receivers in FBS). He can also return kickoffs and punts if needed, logging 54 punt returns for 179 yards (8.8) in his three seasons at Oklahoma. To me, Lamb is a Dez Bryant lookalike -- though Bryant had a bigger upper body and was a stronger guy, they have similar mannerisms on the field. An interesting note on Lamb: He has a unique way of warming up, catching tennis balls rather than footballs.
Pro comparison: Cooper Kupp (65.3 catches per year, 865.3 receiving yards per year, 13.2 yards per catch, 7 receiving touchdowns per year, 2017-19).
Neither Jefferson nor Kupp were highly recruited coming out of high school, though they both come from families of athletes. Jefferson's father, John, was a college basketball player, and Jefferson's brothers, Jordan and Rickey, played football at LSU. Kupp's father, Craig, meanwhile, played in the NFL, and I drafted his grandfather, Jake, to play for the Cowboys in 1964. Running mostly possession routes, Jefferson caught 111 passes for 1,540 yards and 18 scores in 2019. He has a knack for making acrobatic catches; Jerry Sullivan, Jefferson's former position coach at LSU, raves about him. Jefferson had a great workout at the NFL Scouting Combine (4.43-second 40-yard dash, 37.5-inch vertical jump, 10-foot-6 broad jump). He's very quick, strong and smart. His best position is the slot, and like Kupp, he excels at creating separation coming out of the break. Jefferson will catch a lot of passes for many years.
Pro comparison: D.J. Moore (71 catches per year, 981.5 receiving yards per year, 13.8 yards per catch, 3 receiving touchdowns per year, 2018-19).
You could see the improvement that the former junior college player made between his first season at Arizona State in 2018, when he started three games, to his second, when he caught 65 passes for 1,192 yards and eight scores. Aiyuk can separate; like Moore, he is a very explosive runner who can explode downfield as soon as he catches the ball. He can also return kicks (31.9 yards per return on 14 kicks in 2019) and punts (16.2 yards per return on 14 punts). Aiyuk has lots of upside, and, like Moore at Carolina, he can be a No. 1 receiver for someone in the NFL. Given that we don't yet know whether or to what degree the core muscle surgery Aiyuk underwent this week will impact his readiness for the 2020 season, I'm holding off on factoring that into my assessment of him for now.
Pro comparison: Darrius Heyward-Bey (20.2 catches per year, 289.7 receiving yards per year, 14.3 yards per catch, 1.6 receiving touchdowns per year, 2009-2018).
Ruggs, of course, ran the fastest 40 at the combine (4.27 seconds), and his speed must be respected. But he doesn't seem to play as fast as that time would indicate; you would expect someone with that kind of speed to register a heckuva lot more than 10.5 yards after the catch per reception, which was Ruggs' mark (just the third-best in the SEC!) in 2019. He needs space to catch the ball, and he was really the third receiver at Alabama, with the Crimson Tide designing certain plays for him -- like lining him up on one side and having him run across the field -- to create that space. Ruggs is unusual in that he catches the ball in his hands when jumping but traps it in his stomach when catching short passes. Ruggs' comp, Heyward-Bey, was overdrafted in 2009, going seventh overall to the Raiders after running a 4.3 40 at the combine, and he never impacted the game like his speed said he should have.